First sign of promised 700 jobs

Mayor Randy Hope is calling the opening of Siemens new wind turbine training and distribution centre a sign of the 700 jobs he promised last month.

“This is just the start of things to come,” he said. “I think some people are thinking it’s 700 jobs that are coming all at once in one location,” he said. “No, there’s multiple job creations whether it’s in business retentions or others, the numbers are going to start to add up.”

Hope first mentioned the triple digit job figure during the annual mayor’s breakfast in May, but did not provide any more information.

When pressed for more details Wednesday, Hope again declined to comment specifically, stating: “Start doing the math, you’re going to see in a very short period there will be more announcements around the wind industry.”

The mayor pointed to wind energy as an example of a steady, reliable job that he described as “20-year-plus employment opportunities.”

“When we talk about long-term jobs and diversification in our community this is a prime example of what we need,” he said.

According to Jim Trojner, General Manager of Wind Service in Canada, the

location for the new facility, which is tucked off of Grand Avenue East, was chosen because of the company’s history in the municipality.

“This is kind of our home,” he said, explaining that Chatham-Kent was where the company’s first turbines went up. “This is where we have most of our equipment so it only felt right that we need to put our distribution centre here.”

Trojner also said Chatham-Kent has great access to highways as well as airports in London, Windsor and Detroit.

The 12,000-square-foot warehouse will be used for parts storage and servicing for turbines in the area as well as a hub for training turbine workers on equipment and safety.

According to Trojner, the facility currently employs approximately 15 people, but plans to expand next year may see another 10 employees hired on.

Trojner said Seimens has no further plans to build wind turbines in Chatham-Kent, or to manufacture them here.

“Pretty much in this area here it’s a saturated market, now the stuff is either going east of here or north of here,” he said.

Denis Abbott, vice-president of communications and public affairs for the Canadian Wind Energy Association. was on hand for the opening.

He said in many ways Chatham-Kent was a proving ground for the wind industry in Ontario.

“I think a lot of people have watched and admired the Chatham-Kent story,” he said. “It’s set a model, a standard, for other communities to follow.”

Abbott added the opening of the training and distribution centre represented the next step on Chatham-Kent’s involvement with wind energy.

“Chatham-Kent might be at the end of one cycle in terms of the installation of turbines, it’s now moving into another very exciting phase in terms of support of the industry more broadly,” he said.

Abbott referred numerous times to how welcoming Chatham-Kent has been to wind energy, but when asked about opposition he said it was just a byproduct of breaking new ground.

“I will suggest that any form of energy or new project will have opposition whether it’s nuclear, gas or coal, it’s hardly unique to wind,” he said. “Today, would I say that Chatham-Kent is in a much better position than it was prior to the industry coming here?

“I would say yes … I’ll accept there has been some opposition, but as we’ve also seen with operations as wind moves from the development to the operation phase there is absolutely a major increase in acceptance of the possibilities,” he added.

Courtesy: The Chatham Daily News